By: Clay A. Lundquist

How many times have you gone out to an event and said to yourself or maybe even the on site sponsor. “What the hell are you doing at this event?” I go to an exorbinant amount of events and am very opinionated about such things that it probably happens to me more than most but I’m sure everyone has had this happen before.

This past weekend I was checking in at a small event in San Diego put on by the local newspaper. The event was the “Successful Aging Expo”. Basically an event for older citizens to find out about services and products that are aimed specifically at their demographic. It was well run and overall seemed like a good event. As I walked thru everything seemed normal until I got to the 5-Hour Energy booth. To me this stuck out like a sore thumb. What in the hell are they doing here? Are they trying to break into the senior market with their energy drink? I don’t have anything against their product. My wife uses it almost daily. But I can hardly picture my grandma or even my mom chugging one down. Did they really fit here?

When I look at events for possible sponsorships I look at several different factors; type, attendance, demographic, run times, even security being a few. I take everything into consideration and basically just ask myself.  Do we fit? If it fills a majority of my criteria I take the next step, if not I move on. For most areas there are plenty of events and you don’t need to do the ones that don’t make sense for your or your clients’ brand.

Now, back in the day, before I could choose events with my clients I was sent out on plenty of events that didn’t seem to fit but I wasn’t in the position to say much. I just got to take the questions on why we were there. My favorite was a large telecom who liked to do art fairs in the midwest. The reasoning they gave for participating at these events was that heads of households are at these events and they are the ones who make the phone/internet choices for the families. It’s a pretty solid aurgument in an office but once you get onsite the art community didn’t quite see it that way. They basically looked at us like we were bastardizing their event. These comments and dirty looks led to less than stellar results. The hard thing not to say to these folks was that without our sponsorship dollars the event may not have happened. The events rely on these dollars to make things happen.

When you are choosing events you are also looking at outside interests who are pushing you towards a decision. The first being the client. The client will no doubt have ideas of what kinds of events they would like to attend and usually they have a pretty good reason backing up why this makes sense. Then there are other times when the reasoning is a little flimsy. It can be anything from the client just wanting to be part of the event to also trying to imitate another player in their industry. Everyone has things they are interested in and for some reason this comes into play a lot when choosing events. I’m not pointing fingers. I’ve caught myself doing this but many times these events don’t have much of a benefit. I mean why wouldn’t you want to have access to a suite at the Superbowl or backstage passes at Coachella but does it make sense to have your brand onsite to make that happen. You will probably have a blast but when you get back to the office but you are going to have to explain the low ROI and why your insurance or office supply brand needed to be there. 

The second issue you come into contact with when trying to figure out if your brand is a fit for an event is the tenacious sponsorship seller. While there are some out there that are really looking out for the integrity of their event and want to make sure that they are only putting in the right sponsors there are many others who could care less as long as they get paid. They will say anything to get you to come on-board with your sponsorship dollars. You really need to watch out for this especially if you are going into an area that you don’t know well. There is nothing worse than wasting time and money at an event that doesn’t fit your goals and I am willing to bet that across town there was a better event. So don’t get pushed into events. Do your research. It will pay off.

Really the best way to choose events is to sit back for a second and look at it through the eyes of the brand and more importantly the attendee. After you look at it through both ends of the spectrum you will be able to answer your own question. Do we fit at this event?